Review – The Pocket

Posted February 28, 2021 by Nicky in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of The Pocket: A Hidden History of Women's LivesThe Pocket: A Hidden History of Women’s Lives, Barbara Burman, Ariane Fennetaux

Focusing on 1660 to 1900 (a very precise time range!), this book uses the tie-on pocket as an ‘in’ to dig into women’s lives via the historical records, including the physical records (pockets which have ended up in collections and museums), writing and court records. It’s a fairly academic book — lots of “meaning resides in the blahblahblah” type language — and also serves as a pretty comprehensive repository for photographs of extant pockets and their details, but it’s accessible enough if you have enough of an interest, and there’s a lot of fascinating detail.

What really surprised me was how long the tie-on pocket lasted, and the wealth of evidence the authors were actually able to show about how they were used, made, obtained, bought, bartered, pawned and gifted. They really do make a good entrée for the history of women’s lives; I thought one of the most interesting parts were the court records, giving us a glimpse into what women carried in their pockets and why.

Not the most riveting read, even for non-fiction, but the photographs are beautifully done and in full colour, and the subject is fascinating enough that I found it well worth the slightly dry and academic approach.

Rating: 3/5

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